With thousands of website hosts out there, it can often be hard to choose the one that will work best for you. With a little bit of work, however, you can pick out the perfect host.
Focus on Your Needs
What is your website going to do? Do you need a lot of storage space and bandwidth? Or can you get by with just a little? Do you need email addresses @yourdomain.com? Or are you going to use a Yahoo! Mail account (or similar)? What about databases, and spam filters, and website builders?
Develop a list of all the features your site will use - this list will be your key to finding a website host that fits you. On this list, you also might want to include those things that you think your site will need in the not-too-distant future. While it's not as hard as it used to be, switching web hosts can still be pretty complicated.
What Kind of User Are You?
Next, you'll want to determine what kind of user you are. Are you new to the Internet? If so, 24/7 phone support may be best for you. If you're a power user, however, you can probably do just fine with a host that offers only email or ticket support. The more you know, the less you'll have to be in touch with your hosting company. Just make sure that there is indeed a way to get in touch with your hosting company if you need to. If you can't find any contact information on the host's site, this is a red flag and you should probably stay away.
You'll also want to make sure that you will receive a response from your host in a timely fashion - having to wait two or three days just to get an email back is ridiculous. Make sure that your host offers a response-time guarantee somewhere on its site, before you sign up with them. If you can't find it listed on their site, contact them and see how long it takes for them to respond. The ideal response time is a few hours - the absolute maximum amount of time it should take is a day.
How much can you afford to spend for your hosting account? As it is with buying anything else, you get what you pay for. That $1.95-a-month host may offer a really great value, but will they be there for you when you need them? Many of the ultra-low-priced website hosts are not turning a profit, and have not been in business very long - and probably won't be for much longer. To check and see how long your host has been around, enter their domain name here: www.networksolutions.com/whois/index.jhtml. The Registration Date field shows when the domain name was registered, so you can tell how long they've been around.
That's not to say that every low-priced host lacks. HostGator and Site5 both have many happy clients and offer prices around the $6.95-a-month price point. And you can find good website hosts that offer service for $3.95-a-month or $4.95-a-month. But I don't recommend going any lower than that. Judging by posts on online communities such as WebHostingTalk, going with a cheap host just does not pay.
Another important thing to find out is the uptime of any of the hosts you're looking at. Many hosts have an uptime guarantee that is usually around 99.9%. One thing you need to be aware of, however, is that this uptime guarantee does not apply to attacks such as Distributed Denial-of-Service attacks, or to acts of God. What these uptime guarantees do cover are things like hardware failure and server operating system crashes. If you can't find specific uptime information on a host's website, call them or email them and see if they'll share this information with you - if they do not, move on to someone else.
Where to Look for a Host
Now that we've covered the basic points of what to look for in a web host, it's time to talk about where you go to find the perfect host for you. There are many sites available for this, such as WebHostDir.com, TheHostingNews.com , etc. You can also conduct a Google search for 'website host' or 'website host directory'. In addition, visit a forum such as WebHostingTalk to see what other folks are saying about different website hosts. Many users come to WebHostingTalk to post both positive and negative reviews of their hosts.
The main thing is to pick a web host that you are comfortable with and that works well for you. You'll know when you've found the one that's right for you - it will meet your website requirements, you'll feel comfortable with its support, you'll know you can afford it, you will have confirmed its reliability, and you'll know that its other clients are satisfied as well.